People tend to think of football as a high contact sport with a dangerous propensity to inflict injury. But hockey – whether it’s at the Olympics or your local high school – can be just as injurious.
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Hockey is a fast game played at high speed, and so the most common injuries tend to be from impact, says orthopedic surgeon Anthony Miniaci, MD, FRCSC.
The most rigid impediment are the boards that players slam into when hit, and so shoulder injuries and shoulder separations are among the most common hockey injuries, Dr. Miniaci says.
Ankle sprains also are common because the player plants the skate and gets caught on the ice, which inflicts a rotational injury. Other common hockey injuries affect the knees or groin. Concern also is growing for concussion, as it is in other sports.
Hockey players can take some steps to avoid or lessen injury, such as:
- Wearing protective gear such as a face shield, a mouth guard, and a helmet at all times
- Being in good physical condition and warming up before playing also can help
- Focusing on post-game conditioning for the aerobic benefits
“A general warm-up and good conditioning is the best,” Dr. Miniaci says. “There is not a lot of good evidence to show that stretches actually reduce injuries. A general conditioning program is important because fatigue does play a role in injuries.”
One very important thing that players should do – and that coaches and parents should enforce to lessen injuries – is to not hit other players from behind.
“Hitting from behind is not only bad sportsmanship, but is also dangerous,” Dr. Miniaci says. “That can cause not only head injury but neck injury as well.”
Educating youngsters on proper checking is important, Dr. Miniaci says.
“Everyone talks about conditioning, but at the end of the day, these things happen very quickly,” Dr. Miniaci says. “Hockey players need to be comfortable with what they are doing and respond in the appropriate way. I don’t know that lifting any more weights is going to prevent some of these things that are going to occur.”
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